Every Thing On It


A spider lives inside my head

Who weaves a strange and wondrous web

Of silken threads and silver strings

To catch all sorts of flying things,

Like crumbs of thoughts and bits of smiles

And specks of dried-up tears,

And dust of dreams that catch and cling

For years and years and years….

~Shel Silverstein (Every Thing On It, 190)

Every Thing On It

Poems and Drawings by Shel Silverstein

Harper (HarperCollins), 2011.

Hardcover, 195 pages.

Dedication reads: “For you”

“This posthumous collection of Silverstein’s poems and illustrations is not only familiar in design, but chockfull of the whimsical humor, eccentric characters, childhood fantasies, and iconoclastic glee that his many fans adore. Like the boy who orders a hot dog ‘with everything on it’ (‘…it came with a parrot,/ A bee in a bonnet,/ A wristwatch, a wrench, and a rake’), there are plenty of surprises in store for readers. Although a few poems feel a tad fragmentary, overall the volume includes some of Silverstein’s strongest work, brilliantly capturing his versatility and topsy-turvy viewpoint. The poems take expectedly unexpected twists (Walenda the witch rides a vacuum cleaner); a few are gross (‘Let’s just say/ I took a dare,’ reads ‘Mistake,’ as Silverstein shows a snake trailing out of a boy’s pair of shorts, its tail still entering through his mouth), but many more display Silverstein’s clever wordplay, appreciation of everyday events, and understated wisdom. ‘There are no happy endings./ Endings are the saddest part,/ So just give me a happy middle/ And a very happy start.’ The silly-for-the-sake-of-silly verses are nicely balanced with sweetly contemplative offerings, including a poignant final poem that offers an invitation to readers: ‘When I am gone what will you do?/ Who will write and draw for you?/ Someone smarter — someone new?/ Someone better — maybe YOU!’ All ages. (Sept.)” Publishers Weekly

Everything On It was a timely read for Banned Books Week 2011 last week. This posthumous publication contains all we have come to know and love in Shel Silverstein’s Poems and Drawings for children–it’s bound to be challenged/banned very soon. I haven’t much more to say, Publishers Weekly says it so nicely, but I did notice that there are some great poems in Everything On It for adults as well as children, more than usual. (That isn’t to imply that Silverstein’s work is only ever meant for children, it’s just really meant for children.) “Growing Down” (76-9) is about “old Mr. Brown, the crabbiest man in our whole darn town,” whom the children come to call “Grow-Up Brown.” He thinks the children should grow up, the children think he should grow down. Grow-Up Brown comes to agree, “It’s much more fun, this growin’ down.” “The Dollhouse” (151) is another one.


You can’t crawl back in the dollhouse–

You’ve gotten too big to get in.

You’ve got to live here

Like the rest of us do.

You’ve got to walk roads

That are winding and new.

But oh, I wish I could

Crawl back with you,

Into the dollhouse again.

Some parents will especially appreciate “MER-MAID” (171).

There are many mindless and/or mindful ways to think about Silverstein poems and drawings. I love how complicated and uncomplicated a poem of his finds itself.


A lizard in a blizzard

Got a snowflake in his gizzard

And nothing else much happened, I’m afraid,

but lizard rhymed with blizzard

And blizzard rhymed with gizzard

And that, my dear, is why most poems are made.


Every Thing On It is another collection to own, and to share, and to read–with the young and the old. It would be wonderful to see some of our young and old take up the missive in “WRITESINGTELLDRAW” and “When I am Gone.” We need more Shel Silverstein Poems and Drawings in the world.


After the snowmelt and after the rain,

Out of the ground a hand came

And drew me a picture

And wrote me a poem

And touched my face gently

And pointed me home.


Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

5 thoughts on “Every Thing On It

  1. Ah, Shel Silverstein, how you make my heart a touch lighter. Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic and Falling Up were brilliant books growing up. I’ve no clue how many times I’ve read them.

    Thanks for the heads-up that this is out. I had no idea.

  2. I have not read near enough of his work, but when I have read it I am often very touched and impressed by his skill. I don’t recall ever reading him at a young age, but as an adult I’ve found him to be a creative genius.

    Why do you feel the book will be banned/challenged?

  3. I anticipate a challenge for much the same reason past collections have been : primarily, the encouragement to question authority and authoritative ideas; some parental figures are not cast in a good light (of course, neither are some children); concern that poor behaviors will result from reading this book.

    I came across one blogger who went on for a long paragraph how while she didn’t mind putting one of Silverstein’s books in her daughter’s hands, she took the dust jacket off because the poet himself was kind of scary looking. hmmm….

    1. I guess I could see that. Seems a bit silly simply because most popular children’s stories cast some degree of parenting or authority in a bad light. I mean look at all the wicked step-mother stories.

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